Trent Leith / April 15, 2021
The Canucks have been on pause since their mid-season break on March 24th. On the eve of the team’s planned return on March 31st, Adam Gaudette was pulled mid-practice with a positive test for COVID-19. The return of games would be postponed for more than 2 weeks as players and coaches recovered from what has been reported as 25 positive tests, of one of the harsher variants of COVID-19.
The Canucks were scheduled to resume their season Friday evening in the first of a back-to-back set with the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs despite much controversy. That Friday game has been postponed and as things currently sit, the team will resume games Saturday against the Leafs. The Canucks were going to play 19 games in a 31-day span. The Canuck’s return will surely shape up to be one of the strangest stretches of hockey in the franchise’s illustrious history. Since playoff hopes are all but mathematically off the table, many wonder why the games will even be played at all.
Will the Games Even Happen
If the games actually take place or not, is something to watch in the next few days. On Wednesday evening, in a strangely candid moment for an NHL player, JT Miller was honest and open with his concern for his teammates in the wake of the NHL’s worst outbreak to date. With such a condensed schedule and 3 weeks out of game action, the team was scheduled to have only one practice on Thursday before their return.
With COVID-19 being what it is, the long-term health of players should stand paramount. Many who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have had recoveries spanning months, having respiratory issues including shortness of breath and even lung scarring. Many members of the media, fans and now even players have pushed back on the necessity of the games remaining for the Canucks.
We saw on the day following Adam Gaudette’s positive test, a game can have the plug pulled only hours before the puck is scheduled to drop. Until the players take the ice Sunday night, the schedule could be considered pending.
As briefly mentioned, COVID-19 can have long-standing effects on players, long after they have produced multiple negative tests. In addition, going from a 3-week break to back to game action with a single practice is a recipe for injuries due to fatigue and not being in game shape. It will be worth watching how many players can remain healthy and if any will require workload management.
There are reports that Quinn Hughes had been among the harder hit by the outbreak, and even required an IV drip in his recovery. Jumping right back into game action is something that could prove to be extremely difficult on his body. After Adam Gaudette got traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blackhawks have said Gaudette is not game ready and will take some time before joining the team in game action. Unfortunately, that luxury does not seem to be extended to the rest of the players on the Canucks, who are now producing negative tests.
The Plan Moving Forward
What is true at the time of writing this, may not be true moments after, however, as things currently stand, the Canucks players are expecting to take the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday and Monday night to resume their return to play. This gives the team an extra 48 hours of practice time before opening with a back-to-back against the best team in the North Division. While it can be argued that this plan to be inhumane or irresponsible of the league and the NHLPA, it is definitely better than the previous plan of a lone practice before game action.
The NHL and the NHLPA would prefer the Canucks to finish out their season due to sponsorship obligations and schedule integrity. Many fans of the team would prefer the Canucks players and their families to stay healthy rather than risk life and limb to play out the remaining schedule. All signs currently point to the Canucks resuming play in the coming days, but it looks unlikely that they will play the full slate of 19 games.
This raises a lot of questions as far as playoff seeding and draft lottery odds and how the league would handle these issues should the Canucks not finish their full 56 game season.
While what hockey is left to come may not be exciting or a product of quality, the ramifications of such a severe outbreak remain interesting to see unfold. StadiumChinatown.ca hopes that regardless of what happens in the final weeks, that the player’s best interest is kept in the highest regard.